Thursday, March 15, 2007

An update on the kitesurfing gear I am using

This an update on the gear I am currently using, including a few tips.

I have worn these "surf socks" the last few outings. They do reduce the feel of the board a bit, but they were great to have on when I got washed up into the rockwall and reef after not being able to relaunch my kite. They also provide protection from glass and other sharp items. This is not a major problem at Hampton Beach, but people have got some nasty cuts at St Kilda.

I wear this 1mm steamer which I bought a few years ago for diving in the tropics. I find I don't get too hot and it keeps the sun off. So far, I haven't got too cold either, but I don't think it would be warm enough for winter. I notice many people kite in boardshorts and rash vests, but I like having the thin layer of neoprene for protection.

I have taken out this Garmin Forerunner 101 GPS (minus the wrist strap) in the waterproof pouch. It is interesting to get the speed readout and track log. The unit got water in the battery compartment when I wore it on my wrist, so I now keep it in the pouch in the front pocket of my vest. So far I haven't carried out a phone in a waterproof pouch.

I wear this Gath helmet over the top of Ocean eyewear polarised sunglasses, which also have a firm retaining strap. The helmet stops the glasses coming off. I notice most people don't use a helmet, but I think the additional safety is good, especially while learning. Most fatalities in kitesurfing result from head injuries, so a helmet protect against this. So far (touch wood) I haven't conked my head on anything yet. The glasses are excellent for reducing glare.

This is a bouyancy vest I bought from a caneoing shop. It has a pocket on the front that I put my keys and GPS in. The padding provides some additional protection and it obviously means I float better. I plan to take out a slim waterproof camera soon in the front pocket too, or perhaps strapped to my wrist.

I have cut out additional toe grooves in both footpads (on the right of the picture) so I can get a better grip on the board to stop my foot "shaking out" of the straps at speed. This works well, but is less effective with the surf socks on. They tend to jam a bit tighter under the straps and also have a grip surface though.

Also note I have written my name and phone number on the board in the event I lose it in an out-to-sea epic and it gets washed up. Another kiter said his was returned after he lost it in Winter once.

This is the Dakine seat harness I am using, with an additional donkey dick on the bar (which I don't use now). I attach the safety leash below the bar so if I pull the safety the kite goes free. There is a pocket for a safety knife for cutting the kite lines in an emergency on the back of the harness.

This shows the leg loops of the seat harness - very handy for stopping the harness climbing around your ribs when the kite is above you while learning. The safety knife is in the middle. I haven't tried the waist harness since using the seat harness. It may be a bit more comfortable, so I will give it another go soon.

The kites I have are still the 12m Crossbow (15 to 25 knots) and a 7m Crossbow (30+ knots), so far with no modifications other than simplifying the line rigging for the 12m bar.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Session 24: 20 knots on Labor day holiday

A good consistent Southerly during the afternoon on Labor day holiday was a great opportunity for another outing. I was on the water at about 2 and the conditions were good. Lot of speed and not too much swell. On the water, I was pondering on how surreal kitesurfing is. Just, you, the board, the wind and the water. So much power, so much speed and so much fun.

By contrast, the politicians on the news this morning are talking about building another coal-fired power station in Victoria. If you can crank out 30km/h on a kiteboard, surely we can generate our power from a mix of wind and solar?

The turning is progressing well - I am concentrating in keeping power in the kite and getting a slight downwind run to gather speed.

I met Rick, another kitesurfer on the beach who has been reading this blog. It was nice to hear someone is getting some benefits from it.

Please feel free to leave comments on blog postings, or use the email link on the right hand panel to contact me if you wish. I am interested in your feedback.

GPS readings
  • Max speed:28.1 km/h
  • Trip odometer: 8.05km
  • Average: 8.7 km/h
  • Time: 0:55
This is a track log from the GPS, but the map calibration is not quite right yet. As you can see I did one longish run to peek down towards Brighton, and the rest of the time doing short runs to practise turns.

Yesterday the wind was blowing at 30+ knots. We made a family trip to Elwood and walked to St Kilda, where we watched a couple of kiteboarders jumping close to the pier. Spectacular air, 4m+, but no impact vests or helmets. I took some photos and will put them up in a separate posting.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Big wind day and jumping at St Kilda

On Sunday 1 1 March, we did a family trip down to St Kilda for a walk along the foreshore and to check out the kiting action. I didn't take my kite. The wind was blowing at 30+ knots. We weren't dissappointed with the action - a couple of guys were doing outrageous jumps right next to the pier in sheltered water, but with the wind raging overhead.

There were sSome serious obstacles about - like the dredge moored nearby, and no helmets or impact vests. Apparently there has been one kiting fatality with impacting the pier while jumping, but today everything was fine.

They made it look easy - edge the board in to build up pressure then release the edge and fly the kite high. Once in the air, the kites were flying around and coming low again. Landing on the heel pointing downwind seems like the go. Really impressive stuff.

This is looking from the St Kilda pier back to the main kiting area just to the West.

Big air next to the pier, with the dredge in the foreground


Getting some speed heading towards the pier.

The wind chart for the day

Monday, March 05, 2007

Session 23: Good wind, turning and my GPS onboard

A good strong consistent Southerly started blowing in the early afternoon so I headed home early and got to Hampton Beach at about 3:30 and was on the water by 4. There was a reasonable chop/swell, and the wind seemed a lot stronger than my last outing. I took it easy intially keeping upwind, but relaxed a bit and went for more speed.

The wind chart showed 20knots gusting to 25. What a difference 5 knots makes!

I had a great outing. Looking down at the board and watching it carve the water. No problems keeping upwind. Catching the swell coming back in and surfing over waves with lots of speed. Consistent turns are very satisfying. I gently dunked the kite a couple of times while practicing turning but relaunched it without trouble. It is a bit hard getting the board downwind when you are get body dragged. I hoiked on the bar to generate lift above to bring the board under me once.

This was a memorable outing on the water for about 1.5 hours. I felt tired and satisfied afterwards.

I think I am nearly ready to try some small jumps soon.

Turning tips

I successfully turned both left and right on several occasions. Some things I did that helped me:
  • Don't let the kite get too high while changing directions or it loses all pull and you stop in the water
  • Keep some power in the kite as it pulls you downwind in the middle of the turn
  • When you steer in the new direction, the kite wants to dive and will hit the water if you are not careful. Watch it, and bring it up to prevent this.
  • Get some power on as quickly as possible to get going again
GPS log

My GPS worked well in the waterproof pouch. The stats were:
  • Max speed: 37.9 km/h
  • Trip odo: 17.6km
  • Log start: 4:10pm
  • Log finish: 5:32pm
I am working on overlaying the track log on a map, but I need a lower scale digital map.

Wind chart

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Session 22: A downwinder to Brighton

The wind chart was good in the afternoon so I to go kitesurfing rather than bike racing. A Grade at Sandown has been very tough lately. I got to Hampton at about 5:30 and was on the water at 6:00 after untangling my lines. I tried my newly purchased battery operation Coleman pump for the first time. It is handy for filling the main bladder while pumping up the strut bladders manually. I think the new single fill bladders (like on my 7m Crossbow) make life easier too.

The wind seemed a bit low. I got going out OK (to the left), but couldn't keep the board speed up consistently coming back (to the right). Some others were managing better - perhaps they had bigger kites or better technique.

The Fawkner Beacon wind chart indicated about 18 to 15 knots but it did not seem that strong at Hampton and Brighton.

I decided to do a downwinder to Brighton rather than just flail about or go home. It was a good trip. I picked up a few good gusts and ended up sticking my nose around the point at Brighton near the railway station. I landed on the beach behind some bemused bathers then deflated my kite and walked the 1.5km back to my car.

Lighter winds are good for perfecting technique (or realising you don't have any), and downwinders are fun.